Alabama trailed Auburn 10-3 with 1:32 remaining and needed a 97-yard drive to tie the game in front of a frenzied, hostile crowd.
At that moment, sophomore quarterback Bryce Young did not give a speech or an unforgettable one-liner. Young and his teammates simply let the play do the talking.
“Really it was just a culmination of events, and us working together and building trust in each other and believing in each other,” Young told Sporting News. “In a situation like that, we all understood what was at stake. We all understood what we had to do.
“We were all ready for the moment.”
It took 12 plays, a fourth-and- 7 conversion and a third-and-10 touchdown pass to Ja’Corey Brooks to tie the Iron Bowl, and everything else was a windfall. The Crimson Tide beat the Tigers in four overtimes. Alabama beat No. 1 Georgia in the SEC championship game on Dec. 4 and Young won the Heisman Trophy on Dec. 12.
Young, who passed for 4,322 yards, 43 TDs and four interceptions, will lead the Crimson Tide into a College Football Playoff semifinal on Dec. 31 against Cincinnati as the leader of the No. 1 seed. For his efforts, he is the 2021 Sporting News College Football Player of the Year. He joins Tua Tagovailoa (2018) and DeVonta Smith (2020) as the third player in the last four years to win the award.
MORE: SN’s 2021 All-America team
In a way, that was a culmination of events, too. Young has been on the big stage since high school, where he was a five-star quarterback at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif. He was the first African American quarterback in school history, and he passed for 4,528 yards and 58 TDs as a senior.
He also played in a legendary Division I state championship game against St. John Bosco and now-Clemson quarterback D.J. Uigalelei. Young passed for 405 yards and five TDs in a 39-34 loss. That was part of Young’s learning curve, one he said comes from chasing the best competition.
“When you’re playing it’s always relative,” Young said. “Obviously you’d say the SEC championship game is bigger than a conference championship game in high school, but at the time that’s not the case,” said. “It’s just your next championship game.”
Young spent his last year in high school watching Tagovailoa from afar. His first season at Alabama was spent watching Mac Jones, who led the Crimson Tide to a perfect 13-0 record and national championship. Young watched the future first-rounder in the weight room and practice field and saw how that translated to success on the field.
“It was all that, and then seeing how (Tagovailoa and Jones) grew and led the team,” Young said. “I was young, and to be able to witness that as my first experience in college was super beneficial for me.”
Young still entered the season as an unknown quantity. Alabama lost offensive playmakers Jones, Smith, Najee Harris and Jaylen Waddle to the 2021 NFL Draft, and Bill O’Brien replaced Steve Sarkisian as offensive coordinator. Ohio State transfer receiver Jameson Williams stepped into a feature role alongside John Metchie III.
Young has nicknames for all three. He put in that work with “OB,” “Metch” and “Jameo” in the offseason, and he credited those three for helping him master the offense. That translated into a 344-yard, four-TD debut against Miami in the opener. Young unknowingly set the pace for a muddled Heisman race right there.
Young’s calm demeanor, even after the 41-38 loss to Texas A&M on Oct. 9, never wavered. After the Iron Bowl victory, Young passed for 421 yards, rushed for 40 yards and totaled four TDs in a 41-24 victory against Georgia. That put the Crimson Tide in the CFP for the seventh time, and they will have the opportunity to win a seventh national championship under Nick Saban.
“It’s just understanding what it’s going to take and what’s necessary. It was a great outcome (against Georgia),” he said. “We were able to accomplish one of our goals, which is the SEC championship. That’s great, but we also understood that’s not going to have any say in winning a game against Cincinnati.”
MORE: Predicting Alabama-Cincinnati and every other bowl game
Young is immersed in “The Process.” He recited Saban’s line about creating self-value within the team, and it is clear the quarterback seems destined for the same success Tagovailoa and Jones are experiencing at the next level. Young, however, maintains the maturity that comes with sticking in the present tense. Young was one of SN first-team All-Americans from Alabama along with Williams, tackle Evan Neal and linebacker Will Anderson Jr.
In that setup, Young said it is about preparing for the next moment.
“That’s one of the beauties about being at Bama,” Young said. “You know that if you take care of your business on the field as a team and you win, individual accolades and awards are not something you have to worry about. We all understand that, and it makes it a lot easier to focus on what’s important, and that’s winning games.”
Credit: Source link